Knox fights classroom failure

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2004

Something new is happening at Knox Elementary School.

It’s called “Search & Teach,” a program designed to identify children at risk in pre-Kindergarten through age 5,

and to provide specific skills and resources to enable teachers to intervene decisively and effectively before a child fails in school.

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Through a special effort by school board member Dr. Anne Fitts, one of the two authors of the program, Dr. Rosa Hagin who is a distinguished leader in the field of learning disabilities, was in town this past week from northern New Jersey where she lives, to work with Knox Kindergarten teachers.

The program is a new component of a special lab inaugurated at Knox in January, according to Joslyn Reddick, Knox’s principal. “The lab is designed to remediate struggling students,” Reddick said.

Students work on English and math five days a week until they reach targeted levels of achievement.

Ashley Walker is coordinator of the lab.

“Search” is a 20-minute individual test designed to identify children vulnerable to learning problems and to provide a clear profile of strengths and weaknesses in skills necessary to learn to read, write and spell. It provides a structure to guide intervention before children fail, according to materials accompanying the “Search & Teach” Program.

The companion piece of the program is “Teach,” an instructional manual of 55 teaching tasks to address the needs revealed by the individual test “Search.” The tasks are organized into five clusters.

Teach also includes 143 task cards that can be organized into a resource file for the teacher.

The program, based on extensive research, has been available to schools for more than 20 years and is used widely across the nation, but in no other location in Alabama, according to Fitts.

Program co-author Hagin, who holds the Ph.D. degree, is research professor of psychology, Department of Psychiatry of the NYU School of Medicine. The other co-author is Archie A. Silver, M.D., director of Child Psychiatry at University of South Florida School of Medicine.

The connection with “Search & Teach” was made through the Camilla, Ga., schools. Fitts made a number of contacts to arrange a consultation with Selma and Camilla teachers at an Atlanta professional meeting earlier this year.

That gathering

led to the invitation to Hagin for the three-day workshop led by Hagin.

Knox said that getting Hagin to come to Selma was a major impetus in getting a strong start for the program in Selma.

“We were very fortunate to be able to get her to come,” she said, “especially for three days working with our Kindergarten teachers at Knox.”

Fitts is excited by the possibilities of the new program which has now become a part of the lab at Knox, and so is Reddick.

Reddick has high expectations for graduates of Knox and believes the lab and its new component are critical to her objectives for the school. “My goal (as principal) is to provide a strong base for students here at Knox who will finish high school and then go on to college. My greatest desire is that they will then come back and give back to the community that nurtured them and launched them into life,” she said.